Forum writer says widespread celebration of Halloween in S’pore is “befuddling”

By November 3, 2017Current

TL;DR – Halloween is not a religious holiday.

In a letter to Today, Singaporean Skye Tan who returned home last December after living overseas for 11 years says the widespread promotion and “celebration” of Halloween is dumbfounding, whether in schools, libraries, malls, and even among communities in the heartlands.

She adds that Singapore, a South-east Asian country, looks like it has wholeheartedly allowed Halloween to be a part of our communal consciousness,

She had seen a poster of a “Halloween Night” organised by Yuhua Community Centre and the guest of honour was Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. Additionally, at Seletar Mall, there was a Halloween dress-up competition event where Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health, was an invited guest.

What probably prompted her to write the letter was because while she “absolutely” loves how Singapore celebrates every religious festival in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society, Halloween is not a religious holiday.

Here’s the full letter,

I’m a Singaporean who returned home last December after living overseas for 11 years. When we visited kindergartens here last October in preparation for my six-year-old’s enrolment, I was surprised to see Halloween decorations — obviously handmade by the students as craft projects — adorning the school. There were cobwebs, ghosts, witches and pumpkins.

Fast-forward to this year: Every mall we go to these two months seem to have Halloween decorations, deals and even “fright nights” planned. When we dropped by a community library on Oct 28, Halloween decorations jostled for space with Deepavali decorations. There was even a Halloween-themed section showcasing horror fiction that came with a challenge, “Do you dare to read this?”. 

The widespread promotion and “celebration” of this day is dumbfounding, whether in schools, libraries, malls, and even among communities in the heartlands.

In Yishun, I saw a poster of a “Halloween Night” organised by Yuhua Community Centre and the guest of honour was Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. At Seletar Mall, I see a Halloween dress-up competition event where Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health, was an invited guest.

My homeland, a South-east Asian country, looks like it has wholeheartedly allowed Halloween to be a part of our communal consciousness, and I find this befuddling.

One thing I absolutely love about Singapore is how we celebrate every religious festival in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society, but Halloween is not a religious holiday.

What is its cultural significance here when it has its origins in western countries? Why is it endorsed so openly here?

It has become so pervasive that I see less decorations and programmes in malls about Deepavali, which is a relevant religious and cultural celebration by one of our key races.

I’ve two children aged two and six, and personally, I very much detest that there are so many horror images around public spaces that have been put up since August. I much rather spend my time explaining to them what Deepavali and a rangoli is about, instead of the differences between vampires and zombies and why pumpkins have scary faces. And don’t get me started on those advertisements at bus-stops promoting Halloween nights at a certain resort here.

I don’t quite want to keep telling my daughter’s school principal that I don’t want her cutting out figures of ghosts and witches as art and craft. It’s all plain silly.

I observe that many families like the dress-up element of Halloween and children love the idea of getting free candy. How about dressing up in sarees and Indian attire and enjoy visiting our Indian neighbours instead?

Why don’t we have more community events built around this festival? It is just plain strange that our Members of Parliaments are officiating and gracing these Halloween-themed events.

There must be other ways to build a sense of community and fun among our neighbours, ways that do not include horror figures, props related to witchcraft, and so forth.

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Flora Isabelle Lim

Author Flora Isabelle Lim

On a constant quest to be a really professional internet person.

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